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Review: The Midwifes Confession by Diane Chamberlain

midwifes confession 197x300 Review: The Midwifes Confession by Diane Chamberlain

Gentle, quiet Noelle has made a name for herself through her work as a midwife and her giving, generous nature, which is only too apparent in her affectionate relationship with her two best friends Emerson and Tara. But when Noelle commits suicide, Emerson and Tara are left not only facing the loss of their friend, but a mystery as well. Noelles garbled suicide note hints that she may not have been the women her friends thought she was, and the two set about trying to determine the truth about their friendwhich is one that has devastating implications for everyone involved.

My thoughts

The Midwifes Confession was the first of Chamberlains books Ive read, and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Though the title and cover of this book suggest a trashy baby-themed romance, The Midwifes Confession is a very solid piece of commercial womens fiction. In fact, I was reminded rather of Heather Gudenkaufs excellent'These Things Hidden (see my review), which is written in a similar style and touches on many of the same themes. The Midwifes Confession is not simply one that focuses on digging up the dirt of Noelles past, but one that looks at grief and grieving in a complex, thoughtful manner. Tara, for example, is working through the loss of her husband and her difficult relationship with her teenage daughter Grace, while Emerson is struggling to play the supportive role. As the book progresses, Emerson finds herself the subject of several losses that present themselves in substantially different ways. But Chamberlain doesnt allow things to become too black and white: she sensitively allows good to come of the bad as well as the bad of the good. Her approach is a reminder of the fact that our actions have a flow-on effect that may be entirely unanticipated, a notion that is addressed in the complex, challenging interactions of her characters.

Chamberlain uses not only a dual timelineone tracing Noelles life up until her suicide, and the other the current events of the daybut multiple perspectives throughout the novel, and for the most part does a very effective job in doing so. There are perhaps only a few exceptions to this, being the very first scene in which Noelle commits suicide; the first few POV switches, in which the characters voices arent differentiated enough to make this a clear transition; and a few additional scenes in which some minor, seemingly unrelated characters have their say. While Noelles timeline is generally beautifully woven in with the rest of the narrative, things feel a little unbalanced when a certain character from her past suddenly crops up, and is found to be painfully, inextricably linked not only to Noelle, but also to Emerson and Tara. Things turn a little mawkish and unbelievable here, and I felt a little manipulated when I found myself facing a plot line that involved a child with leukaemia (and thats just the least of it, but Im trying to avoid giving away the major plot twists here). While a little tugging of the heartstrings is acceptable, having them unashamedly yanked is a little less forgivable. (As an aside, I also take issue with the Dan Brown-esque approach of having a point of view character read something or say something important, but then keep it from the readersomething I feel is an unfair and artificial way to create suspense.)

Chamberlains strength is in drawing rich, utterly believable characters, and in having them interact in ways that feel so very vivid and raw. While it did take me a few spins of the POV wheel to get my head around the various characters, once established they were very strong indeed. The way in which the struggle between Grace and Tara is played out is excellent, and when Grace begins questioning her identity, things take on additional depth. Indeed, 'the ambiguity raised by Noelles past actions has just about every character questioning who they are, and the role that they have played in their lives and the lives of others. Noelles death becomes a catalyst for self-evaluation, and an immense degree of growth comes from it. The idea of atonement is also raised, and while Noelles efforts to atone for her past wrongs are perhaps not entirely believable, the idea that such evident self-loathing and self-flagellation can go unnoticed by ones closest friends is a chilling one.

Its not only Noelles past that is full of secrets, however. As new information arises, Tara and Emerson, who pride themselves on their close and open relationship, find themselves weighing whether or not to mention the information to which theyve become privy. Secrets are kept, 'and confessions are made, and the characters find themselves musing on whether perhaps its better to allow unknowns to remain exactly that. Reading this, one cant help but wonder how only whether one can truly know another, but whether one would ever truly want to. With her deft touch, Chamberlain manages to make her characterseven those who have done unspeakable wrongsutterly sympathetic, and the reader will wonder, like her characters, whether a person should be condemned for their actions, or forgiven despite them.

The Midwifes Confession, though a touch predictable in its twists and turns, is a strong read that is as much about examining the nuances of friendship as it is about solving a mystery. Its quick and absorbing, and the reader will fly through until the end. Unfortunately, the end is where things unravel a little. The book careers towards a climax, and then simply ends, asking the reader to be satisfied with an epilogue that explains what happened in the denouementthe denouement that the reader never gets to see. This, combined with the final reveal, jars somewhat, and may leave readers dissatisfied. Still, on the whole its a worthy read, and I look forward to checking out more of Chamberlains work.

Rating: star Review: The Midwifes Confession by Diane Chamberlainstar Review: The Midwifes Confession by Diane Chamberlainstar Review: The Midwifes Confession by Diane Chamberlainhalfstar Review: The Midwifes Confession by Diane Chamberlainblankstar Review: The Midwifes Confession by Diane Chamberlain (very good)

With thanks to Meryl L Moss Media Relations for the review copy

Purchase The Midwifes Confession from Amazon | Book Depository UK | Book Depository USA

Other books by Diane Chamberlain

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  1. Ive been seeing a lot of reviews for this and plan to check if I can grab a copy at my library.
    Thanks for your review

    Shelleyrae @ Bookd Out

  2. Stephanie /

    I think youd enjoy it. Its sort of Heather Gudenkauf meets Jodi Picault. Quite fast paced, and with very good characterisation. Other than the slightly over the top melodrama, its very good.

  3. Stephanie /

    My pleasure, Diane. Thank you for such a wonderful read!

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